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Part 1: Child Support: How is it calculated?

Child support is, often, one of the most integral portions of a dissolution or paternity matter. The court is able to determine and order both temporary and permanent child support. As a result, it is important to know what is considered in determining child support and how to navigate your case accordingly.

Public policy in the State of Florida establishes that each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child. Florida Statutes establish a “guidelines schedule” for fair and efficient settlement of support issues between parents. As such, these guidelines often minimize the need for litigation between the parties.

There are several legal proceedings in which child support is able to be established, to include:

1. Dissolution of Marriage actions
2. Paternity actions
3. Petitions for Injunctions Against Domestic Violence
4. Petitions for Support (unconnected with a Dissolution of Marriage action)
5. Title IV-D Judicial proceedings and Administrative Child Support proceedings
6. Various Dependency proceedings

In order to calculate child support, the court first determines a party’s monthly net income by determining their gross income, less any allowable deductions. Gross income includes, but is not limited to:

1. Salary or Wages
2. Bonuses, Commissions, Allowances, Overtime, Tips and other similar payments
3. Business Income
4. Disability Benefits
5. Workers Compensation Benefits and Settlements
6. Unemployment Compensation
7. Pension, Retirement or Annuity Payments
8. Social Security Benefits/Veteran Benefits
9. Spousal Support received from a previous marriage or ordered in the marriage before the court
10. Interest and Dividends
11. Rental Income
12. Income from Royalties, Trusts, and Estates
13. Reimbursed Expenses or in-kind payments to the extent they reduce living expenses
14. Secondary Employment
15. Imputation of Income

In determining child support, the following deductions are considered:

1. Federal, state and local income taxes
2. FICA and Medicare Taxes
3. Mandatory Union Dues
4. Mandatory Retirement
5. Health Insurance – excluding coverage for child
6. Court-ordered child support for other children (actually paid)
7. Spousal support from current or prior marriage

Once the court determines the parties’ monthly net incomes based on the above calculations, the court combines both net incomes and to applies the total to the guidelines schedule. The guidelines schedule considers:

1. The combined amount of monthly net incomes; and
2. The amount of children in order to determine the child support need.

(The court is able to obtain the information for calculations through mandatory financial disclosures.)

Following the above, the court then determines each parent’s “parental payor percentage” of the child support. In calculating each parent’s responsibility, the court will divide each monthly net income by the combined monthly net income. Each parent’s percentage will then be applied to the guideline amount (plus daycare and health insurance expenses).

However, the court also considers the time-sharing of each parent and the amount of overnights with the children in determining the amount of support due. If the parent has less than 20% of the overnights with the children, (or less than 73 a year), the costs of health insurance and daycare are added to the aforementioned obligation and the determination for support ends there.

Wherein a parent has the “substantial contact adjustment,” or 20% or more of the overnights, the amount of support will be apportioned to each parent as follows:

1. Calculate the amount of support obligation for each without including daycare or health insurance costs;

2. Multiply that amount by 1.5;

3. Calculate the percentage of overnight stays with each parent;

4. Multiply each parent’s support obligation by the percentage of the other parent’s overnight stays with the child;

5. The difference between the amounts calculated for each parent shall be the monetary transfer necessary between the parents, subject to an adjustment for daycare and health insurance expenses;

6. Then, the parents income percentages are then applied to the daycare and health insurance costs, with the appropriate credits to the paying parent for the final net amount to be exchanged between the parents.

Once that calculation is complete, a party will have a well established idea of what amount of child support is likely to be considered or ordered by the Court in further litigation, thereby giving the parties an understanding of what number they are able to negotiate around.

While the Court is able to consider other factors in awarding or deviating from support, it is important to have educated and well-versed counsel to guide you. The Rice Law Firm has handled many child support determinations and modification proceedings since 1986. Contact us today at our Daytona Beach location at 386-310-2914.